Pursuing higher education as a parent can be daunting and expensive. Here are scholarship programs designed to help lighten the load for parents—including single parents—who need a little help footing all the bills.

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Mother studying in library with toddler daughter
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It's hardly any secret that parenting can be a handful, particularly if you're doing it solo. Yet in spite of the built-in workload that comes with child-rearing (or perhaps undaunted by it), many ambitious souls also choose to pursue higher education.

It's a wise move on many levels, as higher education opens many doors and leads to an increased salary over the course of a lifetime. For instance, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities says that on an annual basis, bachelor's degree holders earn about $32,000 more than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma. 

"The evidence that a college degree significantly improves one's employment prospects and earnings potential is overwhelming," states a fact sheet published by the association. "Bachelor's degree holders are half as likely to be unemployed as their peers who only have a high school degree, and they make $1 million in additional earnings on average over their lifetime."

All of that's well and good, but continuing education is getting more expensive by the day. And finding extra cash to cover the costs as a parent, and especially as a single parent, can be challenging at best. The good news is that there are some scholarships available for this particular demographic; it can pay off to spend some time doing your research and completing a few scholarship applications before footing that tuition bill on your own—or taking out loans.

"There are a number of scholarships and grants for single moms and parents returning to school. As forms of gift aid, they don't have to be repaid. And applicants can apply for and receive multiple rewards to reduce their education costs," says Kat Tretina, a certified student loan counselor who specializes in helping people avoid student loans. 

Here are some of the most notable scholarships available for parents pursuing higher education.

Patsy Mink Foundation Education Support Award

The Patsy Mink Foundation Education Support Award was created to assist low-income women with children who are pursuing education or training. The scholarship provides $5,000 to recipients. 

"There area income restrictions, and recipients are based on financial need, personal circumstances, and occupational goals," explains Tretina.

Some of the requirements to qualify include being at least 17 years of age, having minor children, and you must be pursuing a first degree at a post-secondary level of education.

Women's Independence Scholarship Program

Though the Women's Independence Scholarship Program is designed to help women who identify as survivors of intimate partner abuse, preference is given to applications from single women with young children who have "the greatest barriers" to completing their education, including childcare needs. Recipients receive from $500 to $2,000 per semester or quarter for undergraduate studies and for master's degrees the awards average $1,000 per semester or quarter.

Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting (EFWA)

The EFWA offers scholarships for women pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in accounting with preference giving to parents and those in need, says Robert Bendetti, an EFWA board member.

"The mission of the EFWA is to provide scholarships and mentoring, supporting equitable access to education and the advancement of women who are pursuing careers in accounting," says Bendetti.

The foundation's Women in Transition scholarship, for example, is designated for a woman who is the primary source of support for her family and is enrolling as an incoming freshman to earn an undergraduate degree in accounting. The scholarship provides up to $16,000 over four years as determined by the EFWA board of trustees and is renewed annually upon completion of satisfactory course work as evidenced by a 3.0 GPA. 

The Women in Need scholarship, meanwhile, is aimed at women who are the primary source of support for their family and are completing their sophomore year of academic pursuit to earn an undergraduate degree in accounting. This scholarship provides $2,000 per year for two years and is renewed for the second year upon completion of satisfactory course work including a 3.0 GPA.

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund

Yet another option that may be appealing to mothers is the Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund, says Ayden Berkey, co-founder of Access Scholarships. 

"This fund awards scholarships to low-income women pursuing an undergraduate education in the United States," says Berkey. "Applicants must be 35 years of age or older."

Applicants must be pursuing a technical or vocational education, an Associate's degree, or a first bachelor's degree. The awards are renewable for up to five years and are given directly to the recipient.

Osher Reentry Scholarships 

Osher Reentry Scholarships from The Bernard Osher Foundation, which offer financial support for students who have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of five or more years (such as to raise children) are available at many institutions of higher education around the country, says Berkey. A list of institutions offering Osher Scholarships is available here. Students apply for the scholarship through the college or university, not through the Osher Foundation.

Custody X Change Single Parent Scholarship

The Custody X Change Giving Fund awards three scholarships (ranging from $500 to $1,000) to single parents annually.

To be eligible, applicants must be a full-time student attending an accredited college or university. In addition, applicants must have a 3.0 GPA or higher. The application process also involves submitting a 400- to 500-word essay about "How you will use your education to improve your family."

Ford Opportunity Scholars Program

Established by Hallie Ford, who happens to be the founder of the prestigious Ford Family Foundation, this scholarship was specifically created to help single parents in obtaining a college degree. Over the years, however, the criteria have expanded to include all parents of any age. However, single parents are still strongly encouraged to apply. Nearly 100 scholarships are awarded each year and the award covers 90 percent of unmet college costs. 

However, there are geographic limitations to the Ford Opportunity Scholars Program. It is only open to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, California.

The ANSWER Scholarship 

The ANSWER Scholarship is designed to help women who are raising school-age children fulfill their dream of earning a college degree.

"Each scholarship is worth $5000 per year for up to four years, for students attending a public institution in the San Diego Unified School District," explains Abby Ha, a single mother who benefitted from many such scholarships herself.

Applicants must be the primary caregiver to at least one school-age child who is enrolled in grades pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The children of applicants can be biological, adopted, or even children for whom legal guardianship has been granted. 

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

Established to offer life-changing opportunities for single mothers and fathers and break the cycle of poverty, the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund is open to those who live in Arkansas or Bowie County, Texas, and are single parents. In order to qualify, applicants must not have previously earned an undergraduate degree. In addition, a GPA of at least 2.0 is required. For more information about requirements, visit the scholarship website.

These scholarships are uniquely tailored for single parents in that they allow the money to be used at the recipient's discretion—whether that's for childcare, gas, car repairs, rent, or utilities. 

"By taking a few things off your plate, we help you focus on building a better future and taking care of your family," states the scholarship's website.

Little Bundle Supermom Scholarship

As Little Bundle points out on its website, more than 11 percent of undergraduate students in this country are single mothers. Looked at another way, that's more than 2.1 million students. Sadly, a mere 8 percent of those women typically complete their degrees. And when they do manage to complete their education, they leave school with nearly $30,000 in debt.

"However, single mothers who attain their Bachelor's degree are 3 times more likely to live above the poverty level. They earn 62 percent more, translating to nearly $300,000 in additional income over the course of their career, on average," states the website.

This scholarship awards $2,000 to single moms, the children of single moms, and people whose lives have been impacted positively by single moms. The awards are granted every six months.

Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards

Offering up to $16,000 for women who provide the primary financial support for the families, Soroptimist gives out more than $2.8 million in education awards each year to about 1,700 women globally, says Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist, a platform that in addition making it easier for people to find jobs works to increase access to education.

"Awards can be used to offset tuition costs, in addition to books, childcare, and other expenses," says Harrington.

The application requires references and a personal statement and is open to women who provide primary financial support to themselves and their dependents. Dependents can include children, a spouse, partner, siblings, or even parents.